My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Washington
We are being asked to move out and being held liable for the remaining eight months of our lease over the purchase of pets. The lease was signed with a clear verbal assurance that we'd be able to have pets on the property, but the language in the lease is vague.
We moved in to a new home in Washington State at the end of October.
Prior to signing the lease for the home, we had a verbal agreement with the landlords that we would be allowed to have pets on the property – stating clearly (both when we first examined the property and again just prior to the lease signing) that we planned to purchase a dog for our son sometime around Christmas, even discussing likely breeds and taking some suggestions from them about looking into local laws regarding dangerous breeds.
They modified the lease agreement (which had restrictions on pet ownership) to reflect our verbal agreement – the new language stating that pets would be allowed with permission of the landlords and the submission of a deposit.
When asked about the deposit, we were told that it would be “around $500” and that “we can deal with that (paying the deposit) at that time” referring to the time at which we planned to purchase the pet.
We foolishly accepted that these vague statements were sufficient.
The verbal agreement and the change to the lease were reached with the full knowledge that we would only be willing to move in if we had permission to have pets on the property. It was because of this verbal agreement and change to the lease that we signed the lease to rent the property
In January, just after the new year, we picked up a couple border collie/Australian shepherd puppies. Two days before we purchased the puppies (from a different location) we were at the humane society and had them call the landlords to verify that we had permission to have pets on the property. They were out of town for the holidays. When they returned we went straight to their door to pay the months rent, let them know that we’d picked up the animals, and discuss the deposit.
Now things went strange. It appears that at some point after signing the lease, the landlord’s changed their mind, or discovered that their relatives (for whom they manage the property) were not willing to honor the agreement. We were first told that we needed to provide not the original $500 deposit, but a $1000 deposit, then told that we had no such agreement, then told that the agreement had been for a single pet, then told that we needed to provide not only the $1000 deposit but a plan for minimizing property damage IF we were allowed to keep pets on the property. They also made it very clear that nowhere in the written documentation was there any evidence that they had ACTUALLY given us permission to have pets, only that we could have pets IF they gave us permission.
As we had only signed the lease because of their assurances that we could have pets on the property, we asked them to provide us a mutually beneficial way to dissolve the lease – getting (again) verbal assurances that they “wouldn’t sue or anything”, and that a reasonable penalty might be loss of our deposit. We are happy to vacate and pay a penalty to resolve the issue (assuming that a penalty equal to a month’s rent or loss of deposit would be reasonable compensation for the landlords).
After a conversation with the property owners, we have been informed that we will not be allowed to keep pets on the property and that we are liable to them for the entire period of the lease (another 8 months). So, they want us to move out or ditch the dogs, and they don’t want to dissolve the lease in a friendly manner.
The situation clearly violates our verbal agreement, but it’s not at all clear in the written lease. Whether this was a deliberate misrepresentation or not, we are being asked to vacate (and accused of breaking the lease terms for) a property that we only agreed to rent based on their willingness to allow pets.
As we will be keeping the dogs, do we have any option other than moving out and paying the rent on two properties? How do we deal with this?